Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Levels of Learning and Change - 1

According to Chris Argyris and Robert Putman (1986), we can learn and change at three main levels:

1. Most often we learn new information and skills and thereby change our behaviours consequently performing tasks more effectively - 1st level. This is sometimes refered to as ‘single loop learning’.

2. Less often we learn at the reflective and thinking level, seeing things from a different angle, reframing and changing our perspectives - 2nd level. This kind of change in our mental framework may be called ‘double loop learning’.

3. Further more, transformational or ‘triple loop learning’ is can be even more profound, affecting not only our behaviour and thinking but our identity. This occurs when the way we see ourselves and our relationship with the world shifts - 3rd level.

Many ancient traditions and modern management processes relate to these three levels of learning or consciousness. In the Kabbalistic tree of life, for example, ‘malchut’ represents the physical or body level (behavioural). “Vasod’ refers to self-awareness or language level (thoughtful) and ‘tifereth’ the inner energy or mood level (transformational). These states of consciousness can be found replicated as ‘orders of learning’ sometimes referred to as 'loops'. All three states are required to create a coherent ‘sense of being'.

We can easily get ‘locked-in’ to our preferred ways of viewing the world, our epistemological and ontological perspectives, that forces us into a rut. To achieve higher levels of consciousness and achievement our goals must be more than just an extension of the same old story, that challenge limiting beliefs and tap the emotional energy needed to let go and dream of new possibilities. These higher virtues belong to the spiritual world, not unlike the ‘pure form’ world of the Buddhist or the ideas world of Plato.

It is at this third level that we might experience synchronicity, where a state of being that is so grounded in deep commitment it draws in other people. Just being able to be there for others and to listen to them is one of tyhe most important capacities a Change Coach has. It calls forth the best in people as they discover real purpose and want to do the inner, reflective work that brings about transformational change.

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